Change, Politics

Celebrating an Elusive Change

“Gbam, gbam, gbam, gbam, gbam, gbam!” May 29, 2015, the military’s parade drums heralded the entry of Muhammadu Buhari, former military head of state, now executive President of the Unitarily Federal Republic of Nigeria. In the course of the election campaigns, he and the APC had offered Nigerians a new era. That promise of “change” was reinforced in his inspiring inauguration speech. 366 days after Buhari’s triumphant entry, Nigerians wait for a change that still eludes them.

There are many commentaries reviewing Buhari’s first year in office, some by helpful critics, others by detractors, optimistic supporters, hope-losing supporters and die-hard sycophantic worshippers. This article would not bother with a full commentary. It would just cherry-pick certain areas that have defined this fast-aging administration.

As the writer, let me quickly disclose that I did not support Buhari’s candidacy in the 2015 Election. To balance things, I also did not believe in Jonathan’s promise of “Transformation”. To me, both candidates were representative of a leadership malaise in Nigeria, forcing Nigerians to decide which was the lesser evil. Even though I rightly saw most of Buhari and the APC’s campaign promises as “bobo juice” for the gullible, fit only for a boobocratic society, I forced myself to hope against hope that the APC would truly bring change. Unfortunately, that change (as promised) has not arrived. Instead, most of the campaign promises have been denied, giving us a less-hopeful definition of change. Let’s now look at some defining indices so far.

Misinformation Overload. When PMB denied the erstwhile well-celebrated campaign promises by stating that some uncoordinated mouthpieces made them, he may have inadvertently offered a glimpse into what awaited Nigerians. To be candid, Nigerians are no longer sure of what to believe again, as different views come from the same government. Buhari said no promises were made, but his vice, the erudite Osinbajo, affirmed those promises. The minister of petroleum announced the removal of petroleum subsidy, yet some other quarters in the government argued that subsidy had not been removed but that exchange rate realities had been considered.

Buhari’s trip to China was another harvest of conflicting information. Did he go to sign a loan deal or to sign agreements for infrastructural projects? Did we sign a deal to increase use of the yuan or was there no agreement? If the flips from the Chinese trip were not confusing enough, the Agatu massacre showed another information disconnect. Were the people of Agatu attacked by Fulani herdsmen seeking revenge, or were they attacked by foreigners with no motive other than to cause disaffection among Nigerians? Were hundreds of Agatu residents killed, as claimed by local residents and state-level police reports, or was it only three dead persons as claimed by the Inspector General of Police? Truly, on the information side, this government has not inspired confidence.

Propaganda. Another defining feature so far has been the deployment of propaganda as a governance tool. Leveraging on widespread illiteracy and apathy for thinking among many educated Nigerians, the Buhari administration has relied on propaganda to do what a proper agenda ought to have done. Media trials of “corrupt” persons have been deployed by a government that fails to understand that convictions cannot occur on the pages of newspapers nor in online forums. Fantastic sums are bandied about as haven been stolen. Even the learned Attorney General was not left out, as he claimed two trillion US dollars had been recovered from looters. This figure overwhelmingly exceeds the nation’s budgets summed since the return to democratic rule.

Still on propaganda, PMB claimed that exposed persons were privately returning stolen monies, seeking pardons. When pressed for details, he promised to list names and amounts recovered on the day of his one-year anniversary, 29 May 2016, presumably during his national broadcast. The broadcast was given without any names nor details, but with a sentence apparently pushing the disclosure to the Ministry of Information, headed by a man synonymous with propaganda.

Honest blunders. Buhari is honest, a man of integrity. No one doubts that (at least no proof to the contrary). With all the PDP’s negative ads during the last elections, they did not directly accuse Buhari of corruption. When he speaks, his passion is apparent. However, if I may be a bit rude, PMB is passionately ignorant. Thanks to a spineless CBN governor, Buhari has become the defacto head of the central bank. Against all economic sense, he has adamantly argued that official devaluation of the naira is tantamount to “killing the naira”. He believes that he is protecting Nigeria’s poor by keeping the exchange rate at ₦199 to a dollar, whereas the poor buys products priced at black market rates of around ₦330 to the dollar. Thus, while he passionately seeks to defend the poor, his ignorance of economic matters, and unwillingness to heed advice has triggered honest blunders, allowing a new rent-seeking scheme. He wants to attract foreign investors, yet his policies are forcing current investors to pack their bags. This same honest failure also played out in the petroleum subsidy debacle. He is honest; he is passionate, but he is ignorant in certain areas, and that is costing Nigerians.

The preceding paragraphs are cheery-picked indicators of how Buhari has fared in one year. To be fair, this article has not been fair. It has focused on selected negatives, ignoring the positives of the administrations. I surely cannot do better than the spokespersons, Femi Adesina, Garba Shehu, or Buhari himself in listing his achievements. These persons have done an outstanding job in highlighting Nigeria’s new sheriff. If you have read up to this point and want some balance, there are many articles offering the pros ignored here.

It’s one year gone now. Ordinarily, that’s 25% of this administration’s time. However, knowing how Nigerian politicians think, maybe their eyes are on an eight-year cycle, making this a “mere” 12.5% spent. Whether, it’s 25% or 12.5%, Buhari, the APC, and all Nigerians should be alert that time is running out. The elusive change must come. Then, we can celebrate.

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